Oberlin Blogs

The Secret Lives of Coffee Mugs

August 19, 2009

John West ’10

I had a strange experience recently. The sister of a friend of mine from high school friended me on Facebook. This, in and of itself, isn't that odd. It turns out, though, that she had thought to friend me because she's thinking of transferring, and, during her college search, she had come across this Oberlin Blogs website and read some of my posts. So, there you have it, prospective students actually read this blog. And, it gets better, she's considering transferring... to Oberlin! And, yes, I'm going to take full credit for this. Unless she decides not to transfer here, in which case my blog played no role in her decision. Anyway, on with this post.


I'm a union man. Or at least I was, sort of, for a while. A few summers ago, I worked as a receptionist in the office of Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis. In Minneapolis, city workers are represented by AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers). So I was a member of AFSCME for all of three months; my sister, a public defender in Minneapolis, is a Teamster; and I'm one of those loony liberals who believes that unions are good for the economy, our communities, and our social fabric. So, yeah, I've got some union pride, and, no, I don't cross picket lines.

One year, my sister got me a Teamsters mug, which was a pretty terrific gift. It allowed me to show my union pride while drinking a refreshing beverage. And it saved my life.


I am a big believer in the Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Let me explain; most classes at Oberlin are scheduled in two ways: (1) Monday, Wednesday, Friday for one hour or (2) Tuesday & Thursday for an hour and a half. I try to pick my classes so that I only have Tuesday/Thursday classes. The upside to this schedule is that you end up with a four-day weekend, and a three-day week. This is awesome. It allows you to do fun things like take weekend trips to New York City or stay up late playing poker on Sunday. Fun!

There is a downside, though: Tuesday and Thursday are long days. You end up with almost solid classes from morning till night, which is more taxing than you'd think. After all, college classes--at least for me--require a bit of digestion, and, after the fourth or fifth philosophy class of the day, you're bound to get a bit of a headache.

This is where coffee comes in. In addition to whatever coffee I drink when I actually get up, I end up taking a full thermos plus a mug's worth to class with me in the morning. This way, I stay nice and jittery all day.

And you can tell my mood by the coffee mug I take with me to class: "You're my most wanted" or "JBHMD" when I'm in a silly mood, "Mudd Mudd Mudd" (the mug from Mudd Library's Azariah's coffee shop) when I'm feeling scholarly, "Ich Bin Ein Oberliner" when I'm feeling full of myself, and, of course, "Teamsters Local 320" when I'm feeling political.


One fateful Tuesday morning, I was a little more harried than usual. I like to be awake for at least an hour before class, which gives me time to re-read (or skim) the readings, check my email, check Google Reader, etc. This morning, I had overslept a bit, and was in a foul mood as I topped off my Teamsters mug. There was a lot of construction on my route to class. They were pulling up the sidewalk and doing god-knows-what. And, as I speed-walked with my head down, chugging coffee, and sucking down nicotine, I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going. There was a large truck blocking the sidewalk, and, as I walked around it, I didn't see the Caterpillar bearing down on me. I heard a shout and I looked up to see this massive machine stopped a few inches in front of me.

The man driving the Cat looked, gestured at the mug in my hands, and said, "Teamsters, huh?"
"Yeah," I said. "I'm sorry. I wasn't really looking where I was going."
"It's all right," He said. "But I might not have stopped if it weren't for that mug."


A few of you know that I'm a copy editor for The Grape, which, let's just say, is an "interesting" job, involving an all-nighter every two weeks and coming up with standardized spelling for words too foul to put on this website. In is in tribute to that job that I have this new mug:

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